The Washington Post leads with Steve Case’s announcement that he’s quitting as chairman of AOL Time Warner, effective as of May. Case founded AOL and built it into a behemoth, but AOL has been sucking wind since its much-hyped merger with Time Warner, and a number of board members had been trying to push Case out. Case, who the WP interviewed, said that he decided to resign rather than get involved in a boardroom brawl. USA Today’s lead says that the Pentagon will need more time than expected to ramp up for an invasion of Iraq. But not much more: According to USAT, “The timing has now shifted from mid-February to the end of February or early March.” The New York Times’ lead reminds us that many companies have been forced to pour money into their pension funds, which have been hit hard by the sagging stock market. In the worst shape is General Motors, which put $2.3 billion in its fund last year but is still $19.3 billion in the hole. The Los Angeles Times leads with, and others stuff, hints from the White House that it will consider aid to North Korea if it abandons its nukes program.
The NYT’s off-lead says the Pentagon received a specific, credible threat that terrorists planned to bomb a commercial plane ferrying U.S. troops to the Middle East. In response, the Pentagon shared the intel report directly with the relevant commercial airline rather than hand it over to civilian authorities. The Times piece, which is light in the sources department and seems to be based on a quick chat with Pentagon folks, says that the military is now regularly sharing (sanitized) intel with commercial shippers sending troops or military cargo. One question the piece doesn’t address: What do law-enforcement officials think about being left outta the loop?
A frontpage piece in the WP says the Pentagon is planning to lobby Congress to exempt the military from various environmental laws. The Pentagon argues that the laws impede training. A report by the GAO, Congress’ watchdog agency, found that environmental regulations are indeed shrinking the size of some training ranges (i.e., you can’t fire a shell in a spotted-owl neighborhood) but concluded that the Pentagon hasn’t shown that the shrinkage has had any impact on readiness.
In a piece that USAT, for some unfathomable reason, drops into the “Life” section (next to a pan of TheBachelorette), the paper reports that California’s state health department has developed an effective, albeit small-scale, antidote to botulinum, that scary nerve agent that 1) Saddam probably has and 2) the Pentagon is freaking out about and says it’s not prepared to counter. Problem is, California Gov. Gray Davis, who’s combating a mega-deficit, has proposed cutting the program.
An above-the-fold Post piece says that Republican House leaders, namely Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom DeLay, are tightening their rein on power and pushing rank-and-file GOP reps to get in step. Tops among the changes: Committee chairmanships are no longer based on seniority; instead Hastert and DeLay now decide who will get them.
Despite the WP’s assertion that the chairmanship change has been “little noticed,” the NYT noted the move in a front-page piece last month. Meanwhile, both papers suggest that something untoward is happening. (WP: “Hastert and DeLay circumvented the seniority system to reward their most loyal allies with important chairmanships.”) Slate’s Jack Shafer doesn’t buy it.
Remember the tanker that sank off Spain’s coast two months ago? A piece inside USAT says it’s still leaking oil, and unless something is done about it the sludge will continue seeping for years. “It is the biggest environmental catastrophe ever to hit Spain—or Europe—and the human damage is far worse than the Valdez,” said one (perhaps overwrought?) researcher. So long as the stuff keeps leaking, the fishing industry off the coast of Galicia will be out of commission. The papers have had scant coverage of the spill, which has apparently outlived its 15 minutes as the Big Story. (Pedantic, double-negative, reminder: Just because a story is slow-moving, doesn’t mean it’s not important.)
A front-page piece in the LAT details the U.S.’s newly cozy relationship with a number of corrupt West African countries that have a bunch of oil. The piece, which was filed from Washington and doesn’t have much detail, says that human-rights folks are pushing the Bush administration to tie oil deals to accountability and improved governance. (In other words, the hoped-for message: Stop stealing oil money from your own citizens.)
Everybody notes that nine Palestinians and two Israelis were killed in various incidents in Israel and the occupied territories. Two Palestinian gunmen were killed as they tried to cross the border from Egypt to Israel. In another incident, Israeli helicopters botched a “targeted killing” and hit a car, killing two civilians.
The LAT’s Ron Brownstein eviscerates Bush’s proposed tax cuts:
Old question: What did you do in the war, Daddy?
New answer: I pocketed a large tax cut, honey.
And then I passed the bill for the war on to you.
Breaking news! The LAT’s Web site reports, “N. KOREA FACILITY RAISES CONCERN: The Yongbyon nuclear complex, deactivated in 1994, is enjoying a resurgence.”
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